AN EXAMINATION OF HIS
"FIFTY YEARS IN
THE CHURCH OF ROME"
by REV. SYDNEY F. SMITH, S.J.
Catholic Truth Society 1908
* Since "Chick Comics"
indulge their anti-Catholic diatribes with liberal doses of references
to the unfortunate Fr Chiniquy, this pamphlet is of more than
historical interest. To read Chick,
one would think that Fr Chiniquy was a recent loss to the Catholic
Church, not a character dating back to before the American Civil War.
It is with a degree of sorrow that I recommend the reading of this
pamphlet as a partial antidote to the unsound anti-Catholic ravings
coming from the presses of Chick.
They say they love the Lord. Excellent. May the Lord they love lead
them into the fullness of the Church the Lord founded. Amen. *
Assistant to the Web Master. *
* * *
IF the person who called
himself Father Chiniquy had confined himself to the ministrations of
the religion for which he forsook the Church of his baptism, we might
have left him unchallenged to give his own account of the motives and
circumstances of his alleged conversion. But inasmuch as he has sought
to gain popularity and income by wholesale
the personal character and beliefs of those with whom he was previously
associated, and his books written for this purpose are still widely
used as instruments for the persecution of poor Catholic working men
and working women in the shops and factories, those connected with him
can have no complaint against us for submitting his past career to a
searching examination, even if the result should be to discover facts
not tending to exalt his reputation. So far, indeed, we have not taken
this course, the difficulty of obtaining the requisite information from
distant places having been so great; but so many piteous appeals have
reached us from the victims of this unscrupulous persecution, that we
have seen the necessity of putting the man's story to the test, and
through the kindness of some American and Canadian friends we have been
supplied with some materials which, if they do not enable us to check
his story at every point, suffice at least to show that he was not
exactly the witness of truth.
Before entering on the particulars of his life it will be convenient to
consider the general nature of his charges against the Catholic Church
and her clergy. And here at the outset we discover a very remarkable
development in his allegations. In his earliest biographical effusion, published by the Religious Tract Society
in 1861, he bases his conversion solely on doctrinal
considerations, and so far from bringing charges against the moral
character of the Catholic clergy, he says expressly that there are in
the Church of Rome many most sincere and respectable men, and that "we
must surely pray God to send them His light, but we cannot go further
and abuse them"; nor is there any charge against their personal
character in his Why I left the
Church of Rome, which comes next in chronological order.
But it would seem that the ultra-Protestant palate required something
more stimulating, for in his verbose and voluminous Fifty Years in the Church of Rome
(1885) he tells quite a different
story. There he represents himself as
one whom the influences of birth, education, and social connections
attached firmly to the Catholic Church, but whom a series of appalling
experiences as a child, as an aspirant to the sacred ministry, as a
priest, drove in spite of himself to realize that this Church was
utterly unscriptural in her doctrines and corrupt in her morals.
Gradually and sorrowfully he was led to realize that her rulers were
perfectly well aware of this opposition between her teaching and that
of the Bible, and just for this reason strove always to keep the
knowledge of the sacred volumes from her people, forbidding her laity
to possess copies of them, and her clergy to attach to them any meaning
save such as was dictated by a unanimous consent of the Fathers, which
was never obtainable. Gradually and sorrowfully he was led to realize
that the practice of auricular confession meant nothing less than the
systematic pollution of young minds by filthy questions, and that the
vow of clerical celibacy served only to set the priests on the path of
incontinence. Gradually and sorrowfully he was led to realize that the
clergy practically as a whole were drunkards and infidels, whose one
interest in their sacred profession was by simony and oppression to
make as much money out of it as their opportunities allowed them.
Thus Bishop Panet is represented as making the acknowledgement that
"the priests [of the diocese of Quebec] with the exception of M. Perras
and one or two others, were infidels and atheists," ( Fifty Years in the Church of Rome,
p. 139. All subsequent references are to this work except where
otherwise specified.) but as finding a strange consolation in learning
from M. Perras that "the Popes themselves, at least fifty of them, had
been just as bad."
Father Guignes, the Superior of the Oblate Fathers, tells him "there
are not more undefiled souls among the priests than in the days of Lot"
(p. 280), that "it is in fact morally impossible for a secular priest
to keep his vow of celibacy except by a miracle of the grace of God,"
but that "the priests whom God calls to become members of any of the
[religious] orders are safe." Later he discovers that, so far from this
being the case, "the regular clergy give themselves up with more
impunity to every kind of debauch and licentiousness than the secular"
(p. 308). In Illinois things were quite as bad, indeed much worse. "The
drunkenness and other immoralities of the clergy there" -- as pictured
to him on his arrival in those parts by a M. Lebel, a Canadian priest
who had charge of the Canadian colonists of Chicago -- "surpassed all
[he] had ever heard or known" (p. 352), and somewhat later he made the
painful discovery that Lebel himself was among the worst of them.
Nor were the bishops in the two countries any better. Bishop Lefevre,
of Detroit, was a man capable of taking the teetotal pledge publicly in
face of his assembled flock, and that same evening coolly disregarding
it at his own private table; and his predecessor, Bishop Reese, "during
the last years he had spent in the diocese, had passed very few weeks
without being picked up beastly drunk in the lowest taverns" (p. 347).
Bishop Quarter, of Chicago, is fortunate in not himself coming under
Chiniquy's lash, but the latter assures us that he died poisoned by his
Grand Vicar, who desired thus to prevent the exposure of his own
licentious conduct (p. 352). Bishop Vandevelde, who succeeded Bishop
Quarter, is on the whole more leniently dealt with, but "though he was
most moderate in his drink at table" we are assured that "at night when
nobody could see him he gave himself up to the detestable habit of
intoxication" (p. 382).
Bishop O'Regan, the successor of Bishop
Vandevelde, and the prelate who, by force of circumstances, was brought
into the sharpest conflict with Chiniquy, pays for it by being
represented as the incarnation of all that can be odious in human
character; and Archbishop Kendrick is represented as having agreed with
Chiniquy that "the rapacity of Bishop O'Regan, his thefts, his lies,
his acts of simony, were public and intolerable," and "that
unprincipled dignitary is the cause that our holy religion is not only
losing her prestige in the United States, but is becoming an object of
contempt wherever these public crimes are known" (p. 434). Bishop
Bourget, of Montreal, is another prelate whose character is aspersed by
this man's allegations. In one place we are assured that this bishop,
when a young priest staying with his Bishop at the Hotel Dieu in
Montreal, was one of two or three priests who so shocked the nuns that
the latter said, "unless the bishop went away and took his priests away
with him, it would be far better that they themselves should leave the
convent and get married" (p. 307). Also, this ecclesiastic, we are
told, when Bishop of Montreal, bade Chiniquy to allure into a convent a
lady who confessedly had no vocation, solely in order that he might
transfer her large fortune into his episcopal coffers (p. 358); and
that for refusing to co-operate in this iniquitous scheme he determined
to ruin him, put up an abandoned
girl to make a false charge against
his honour, and then suspend him without allowing him to defend
This is the substance of Chiniquy's indictment against the bishops and
clergy of the two countries of which he had experience, and in support
of it he brings together numerous facts, or what purport to be such,
full of detail and of long conversations, all so conceived as to
suggest that the greatest part of the iniquities of these people were
either too palpable to need proof, so were attested by the
acknowledgements of the accused persons themselves. That a book of this
kind should deeply impress readers of the Protestant Alliance type is
not surprising. But more prudent minds
that this mass of denunciation was not published till after 1885 --
that is, after a quarter of a century from the date when, with his
apostasy, his experiences of Catholic life from the inside must have
that all rests on this unsupported testimony of Chiniquy himself;
that the whole tone of the book is that of a man absolutely
egotistic and impracticable, absolutely incapable of seeing any other
side but his own, absolutely reckless in his charges against any one
who should venture to oppose him, and absolutely exaggerated at all
times in his language;
in short, that the author of a story which makes out the Catholic
Church of Canada and the United States, at the date of which he writes,
to be so essentially different from what unbiased witnesses find it to
be within the scope of their own direct observation, is one who paints
himself in his own book as destitute of all those qualities which
predispose a discerning reader to repose confidence in an author's
To this general motive for distrust others accede as soon as we begin
to carry our examination into the
details of the book. Thus in his
fourth chapter he tells us of a secret meeting in the house of one of
his uncles, which was attended by several of the leading inhabitants of
Kamouraska. Its object was to discuss the conduct of the clergy in the
confessional, and the narrator fills six closely printed pages with a
detailed report of the speeches then delivered. He was not invited to
the meeting, but was present at it in the character of an eavesdropper,
hiding in some unobserved corner, his age at the time being ten. We
must suppose, then, that this youthful scribe, with an intelligence
beyond his years, took down the speeches in shorthand, for future use;
or rather, since we are not credulous enough to believe this, we must
suppose that all this account of the meeting was pure invention of his
after-years, and must conclude that the man was capable of such
amplifications and inventions, and of palming them off as truths when
it happened to suit his purpose. And this point about his method being
established, we may surely suspect him of employing it in the similarly
detailed stories with which the book abounds, and in which priests and
bishops speak just as a fierce anti-Catholic might wish them to speak,
but quite unlike the way in which they are found to speak all the world
Nor is it a question here of their speaking as bad men rather than as
good men, but of the specific style of the explanations and
vindications of their own doctrines and practices which they are made
to give. For instance, it is known perfectly well from their
theological books what replies priests and other Catholics are taught
to give to those who take objection to their Church's doctrine on the
lawfulness of Bible reading and of interpreting Scripture
inconsistently with the "unanimous consent of the Fathers", on the
veneration of our Blessed Lady and the Saints and of its accord with
Holy Scripture, on the practice of asking and refraining from asking
questions in the confessional, and so on. Let us suppose, for the sake
of argument, that what these Catholic theological books say on these
subjects is altogether unsound and indefensible, at least the clergy of
Canada might be expected to answer in the language laid down for them
in their books, and not in the language which makes Catholics laugh
when some composer of Protestant fictions puts it in the mouths of his
characters. Yet the priestly characters in Chiniquy's Fifty Years speak
invariably like the latter, not the former. And, just as if we came
across a traveller's account of a country in which the lions brayed
the donkey's roared, the nightingale cawed and the rooks sang sweetly
in the night-time, we should say that our traveller was either joking
or lying; so will any intelligent possessor of a historic sense say of
Chiniquy's paradoxical account of the sayings and doings of the
Canadian and American clergy.
It may be well to give an illustration
of what we refer to under this
head, and the following is an apposite one (p. 334). Chiniquy had
preached a sermon on devotion to our Blessed Lady, and had been
congratulated on it by Bishop Prince, then Auxiliary Bishop of
Montreal. During the night he professes to have seen how unscriptural
had been his preaching, and how opposed to the teaching of the
Evangelist, who, when our Lord's mother and brethren stood without,
refused to recognize them as having any claims upon Him. It is a
well-known passage, and any Catholic commentary would, if referred to,
have explained that our Lord wished to teach a lesson to the apostles
and their successors in the ministry, of the devotedness with which
they must be prepared to subordinate all earthly ties to the service of
their ministry. Yet neither to Chiniquy nor to the bishop does it even
occur to consider this explanation, and they talk just as if they were
"How", asks Chiniquy, "can we say that Jesus always granted the
requests of His mother, when this evangelist tells us He never granted
her petitions when acting in His capacity of Saviour of the world?" At
which simple, easy question the bishop is represented as seeming
"absolutely confused", so that Chiniquy has to help him out by further
asking "Who came into the world to save you and me?" to which the
bishop replies sheepishly, "It is Jesus"; and "Who is the sinner's best
friend, Jesus or Mary?" to which the bishop replies, "It is Jesus . . .
Jesus said to all sinners, 'Come unto me', He never said 'Go to Mary' "
-- the bishop finally extricating himself from his embarrassment by
saying feebly, "You will find an answer to your questions in the Holy
Fathers." Is it likely that a
Catholic bishop talked like that? Is it
not more likely that the writer who fabricated what he supposes himself
to have overheard at the age of ten, fabricated
this conversation too,
and others like it throughout the book which are similarly destitute of
Nor is the test of self-contradiction
wanting to complete our distrust
of Chiniquy's allegations. He is continually telling his readers that
the Church of Rome forbids the reading of Scripture to the laity, and
even to her ecclesiastical students. Thus when he was a young
seminarian at St. Nicolet he tells us it was the rule of the College to
keep the Bible apart in the library, among the forbidden books. But one
day, having obtained access to a copy and surreptitiously spent and
hour or so in perusing it, he afterwards felt bound to tell the
director, his great friend M. Leprohon. The latter, he assures us, was
sad, and while acknowledging his inability to answer his pupil's
argumentation, said, "I have something better than my own weak
thoughts. I have the thoughts of the Church and of our Holy Father the
Pope. They forbid us to put the Bible in the hands of our students."
Yet in the story of his boyhood -- in which he tells us how he used as
a child to read aloud to the neighbouring farmers out of a Bible
belonging to his family, and how the priest, hearing of this, came one
day to take the forbidden book away -- he has to acknowledge that this
copy had been given to his father as a seminary prize in his early
And -- to pass over such insights as he gives us into clerical life in
the order of the day observed in the presbytery of his first
Curé, where a daily hour was assigned to Bible reading -- we may
be content to set against his later allegations the statements he made
on the occasion of his controversy
with Roussy, a Protestant
on January 7, 1851.
This date, indeed, should be noted, for it means that this controversy
took place shortly before his departure from Canada to Illinois, and
therefore after the many occasions when, according to his Fifty Years,
he had felt and expressed to personal friends his concern at finding
that the Church feared the Bible and sought to hide it from her
children. And yet on the platform, on January 7, 1851, he talks just as
a Catholic priest would talk, except, indeed, for the repulsive egotism
and browbeating which is all his own. Take, for instance, the following
"Certain Protestants will repeat that
the Church forbids the reading of
the Bible by the people. This is a cowardly and absurd lie, and it is
only the ignorant or the silly amongst Protestants who at present
believe this ancient fabrication of heresy. Some unscrupulous
ministers, however, are constantly bringing it up before the eyes of
their dupes to impose upon them and keep them in a holy horror of what
they call Popery. Let Protestants make the tour of Europe and America;
let them go into the numerous book-stores they will come across at
every step: let them, for instance, go to Montreal, to Mr. Fabre's or
to Mr. Sadler's; and everywhere they will find on their shelves
thousands of Bibles in all modern languages, printed with the
permission of the ecclesiastical authorities. I hold in my hand a New
Testament, printed less than five years ago, at Quebec. On the first
page I read the following approbation of the Archbishop of Quebec: 'We
approve and recommend to the faithful of our diocese this translation
of the New Testament, with commentaries on the texts and notes at the
foot of the pages. Joseph, Archbishop of Quebec.' Every one of those
Catholic Bibles, to be found on sale at every bookseller in Europe and
America in like manner, bears irrefutable witness to the fact that
Protestantism is fed on lies, when day by day it listens with
complacency to its ministers and its newspapers, telling it in various
strains that we Catholics are enemies of the Bible."
This and much more to the same effect may be found in the report of the
discussion between Chiniquy and Roussy which was republished in 1893,
under the title of The Two Chiniquys
at the office of the True Witness.
Again, as regards the question of clerical morality, from time to time
we get from him, as it were through rifts in the clouds of his
inventions, little glimpses into the real
life of the Canadian clergy,
which reveal them to us in a by no means unpleasant light. What could
be more edifying than the account given of M. Perras's priestly life
(p. 133), or of M. Bedard's (p. 157)? True, he tries to cast some flies
into their ointment, but there is M. Têtu, the Curé of St.
Roch, who was evidently a truly good man, and of whom Chiniquy is
constrained to say that he "never
saw him in a bad humour a single time
during the four years that it was his fortune to work under him in that
parish" and "from whose lips
an unkind word never proceeded" (p. 169).
And there is the young priest, M. Estimanville, who in the cholera time
at Quebec was introduced by Chiniquy for the first time to the hospital
he was to serve.
"The young priest turned pale, and
'Is it possible that such a
deadly epidemic is raging where you are taking me?
I answered, 'Yes, my
dear young brother, it is a fact, and I consider it my duty to tell you
not to enter that house, if you are afraid to die.'
A few minutes of
silence followed . . . he then took his handkerchief and wiped away
big drops of sweat which were rolling from his forehead on his cheeks,
'Is there a more holy and desirable way of dying than by
ministering to the spiritual and temporal wants of my brethren? No. If
it is the will of God that I should fail when fighting at this post of
danger, I am ready.' . . . He died a few months afterwards" (p. 224).
Nor was this a single case.
"We must be honest" (he writes in
another place), "and true towards the
Roman Catholic priests of Canada. Few men, if any, have shown more
courage and self-denial in the hour of danger than they did. I have
seen them at work during the two memorable years 1832 and 1834, with a
courage and self-denial worthy of the admiration of heaven and earth.
Though they knew that the most horrible tortures and death might be the
price of their devotedness, I have not known a single one of them who
ever shrank before the danger. At the first appeal, in the midst of the
darkest and stormiest nights, as well as in the light of the brightest
days, they were always ready to leave their warm and comfortable beds
to run to the rescue of the sick and dying" (p. 166).
These admissions, wrung as it were from the traducer of his brethren,
may serve to show that the clergy of Canada were not so unlike the
clergy elsewhere. That there should be tares among the wheat is always
to be expected, and Chiniquy, as we shall see, was his own greatest
argument to prove that they were both wanting in Canada and the United
States. But in the first generation of Christian clergy, who received
their Master Himself, the proportion
of tares to wheat was one in
twelve. We may trust that it has never been anything like as
since, nor is there any reason to suppose it was anything like as high
among the clergy in whose ranks Chiniquy lived and worked.
But what about the bishops
whom Chiniquy represents as such utter
monsters? We must refer the reader to Mr. Gilmary Shea's History of the
Catholic Church in the United States for an account of the two
of Detroit, Bishops Reese and Lefevre, who were evidently quite unlike
what we might gather from Fifty
Years in the Church of Rome.
Nor, as Chiniquy has little to tell against Bishop Vandevelde, need we
say more than that, as we have ascertained from well-informed
correspondents, he was a little weak in his government, perhaps, but
was a thoroughly good and conscientious man, and by no means likely to
have had a habit of secret tippling. Bishop Bourget of Montreal and
Bishop O'Regan of Chicago were the prelates who had to do most of the
unpleasant work in restraining Chiniquy, and were, therefore, his pet
aversions. What is to be said of them? Bishop Bourget, so far being a
harsh, inconsiderate, unscrupulous and mendacious character, was a
prelate who left a deep and lasting impression on the Canadians by
reason of his very remarkable holiness of life. He was a man of the
most delicate charity and tenderness, quite incapable of doing the
smallest injustice even to the most guilty, and when compelled to
punish ever anxious to make the way of penitence and restoration easy
for the offender. Indeed, so eminent was Bishop Bourget for his virtues
that his contemporaries looked forward to the possibility of his being
beatified some day. And we may add that the letters written by him in
this Chiniquy case, of which we have copies now lying before us, all
bear out this estimate of his character. They breathe throughout a
spirit of the most exquisite conscientiousness and charity.
About Bishop O'Regan, Mr. Gilmary Shea
gives us the following facts.
He was born at Lavelloc, in County Mayo [in Ireland], and was educated
at Maynooth (near Dublin). Archbishop McHale made him Professor of Holy
St. Jarlath's College [Ireland]. He came to St. Louis in 1849 at the
Archbishop Kendrick, to be head of the Seminary at Carondelet. When he
received the Bulls (appointing him to the see of Chicago) he sent them
back, saying that he was a college man without missionary experience;
and when he was ordered to accept, he said: "I accept only in the
spirit of obedience." He began his administration with energy, and
feeling the want of good priests, made earnest efforts to obtain them
for his English-speaking, German and French congregations. He
introduced system, and did much to restore discipline, but his methods
caused discontent, which was fostered by many. Bishop O'Regan had
entered heartily into works for the good of the diocese, and expended
large sums of his own means for it. But, tired out by the opposition of
Chiniquy and some others, he resolved to visit Rome and plead in person
for his release from a burden which he felt to be beyond his strength
to bear. His resignation was eventually accepted, and he was
transferred to the titular see of Dora on June 25, 1858. He then
returned to Europe, and spent the remainder of his life in retirement
in Ireland and England. He died in London, at Brompton, on November 13,
1866, aged 57, and his remains were carried to his native parish of
Confert. Mr. Gilmary Shea
adds: "It may be said of Bishop O'Regan that
he was a man in the truest sense, single-minded, firm as a rock, and
honest as gold, a lover of truth and justice, whom no self-interest
could mislead and no corruption could contaminate. He held fast the
affection of many and won the esteem of all."
So far we have been occupied with the
general character of Chiniquy's
accusations, the truth or falsehood of which we have sought to estimate
by applying tests furnished chiefly by his own writings. Probably
readers will agree with us that the result has been to show that this
person is not exactly the kind of witness who can claim to be taken on
his own valuation, and, apart from an external confirmation
not available, can be trusted implicitly. We must now go through the
stages of his life up to the time of his apostasy, to see how far his
own account of it agrees with that of others.
To help us in our task we have for the one side his Fifty Years in the
Church of Rome, which is the fullest presentation he has given
his story; and for the other side we
have some documents which have
been procured for us by the kindness of a Canadian friend. These are:
Biographical Notes Concerning the
Apostate Chiniquy, a paper which
has been published quite recently: this was drawn up by Monsignor
Têtu, of Quebec Cathedral, a grandson of the Hon. Amable Dionne,
who married one of Chiniquy's maternal aunts (Document A).
A copy of a manuscript belonging to the Archives of the
Collège St. Marie, at Montreal, entitled Manuscrit trouvé
dans les papiers de M. le Chanoine Lamarche après sa mort.
[Manuscript found among the papers of Monsieur Canon Lamarche after his
paper is an account and a criticism of Chiniquy's life, but is
defective, the first twenty pages being missing as well as all that
followed the forty-four pages preserved. From internal evidence the
writer is M. Mailloux, a Grand Vicar of Quebec, who knew Chiniquy very
well in his Canadian days, and was afterwards sent to Illinois to undo
the evil lie had wrought there (Document
A copy of a letter dated March 19, 1857, and addressed by Bishop
Bourget of Montreal to the "Canadian Catholics of Bourbonnais." It has
been transcribed for us from the Courrier
de Canada, a Montreal paper,
in which it appeared on April 7, 1857 (Document
A paper entitled Explanations of
certain Facts misrepresented by M.
Chiniquy in his Letter of April 18, 1857. This paper is also by
Bourget, and is dated May 6, 1857. It has been copied for us from the
archives of the see of Montreal (Document
A number of letters exchanged between Bishop Bourget and others
between the years 1848 and 1858. These have likewise been transcribed
for us from the authentic copies in Bishop Bourget's Register (Document
Charles Chiniquy was born on July 30, 1809, at Kamouraska, a town on
the right bank of the St. Lawrence, some forty miles below Quebec. His
parents were Charles Chiniquy, a notary by profession, and Reine
Chiniquy, née Perrault. His father dying on July 19, 1821, he
was adopted by his uncle, the Hon. Amable Dionne, who, on finding that
he desired to be brought up for the priesthood, sent him to school at
the Little Seminary of St. Nicolet. When he had been there three years
a difficulty arose. "Owing to
a misunderstanding between myself and my
uncle Dionne he had ceased to maintain me at college" (p. 66). This is
all that Chiniquy himself tells us about the matter, but Document A
says: "In 1825 Mr. Dionne ceased paying for him, and refused him
admittance into his house, declaring him unworthy of being a member of
his honourable family," and the same document in a note says: " I
[i.e., Monsignor Têtu] can certify that the Honourable Amable
Dionne was an intimate friend of Bishops Plessis and Panet of Quebec,
and of Bishop Provencher of the Red River Missions. The greatest sorrow
of his life was to see his unworthy nephew, who had always been a bad
Catholic, become a bad priest. But that was no fault of his."
We can gather from these words that the fault of which he was
considered guilty was an offence against morality. But, after all, he
was then only a boy, and two priests, M. Leprohon, the Director of the
College, and M. Brassard, one of the Professors -- thinking that he
might change for the better and deeming that there was promise in him,
took upon themselves the further burden of his maintenance, and so
enabled him to continue his studies and afterwards to pass on to the
Greater Seminary. Moreover, M. Leprohon till his death, in 1844, and M.
Brassard till the time of Chiniquy's apostasy, continued to take a
fatherly interest in him, and the latter to believe in him long after
all others had given him up as hopeless. On September 21, 1833, he was
ordained priest by Archbishop Signaie in Quebec Cathedral, having been
incorporated into that diocese. During the next few years he was
assistant priest in three parishes in succession, but in 1838 he was
made Curé of Beauport, a suburb of Quebec, and it was there that
he inaugurated the temperance movement which brought him into great
prominence. In 1842 he was transferred to his native place, Kamouraska,
in the first instance as administrator under the now aged M. Varin, and
shortly after as his successor.
This was the place of residence of his uncle Dionne, who was by no
means glad to have him in the neighbourhood. His own account is that he
signalized his tenure of office at Kamouraska by great doings which won
for him the attachment of the people; still, he cannot deny that there
was a strong party against him. And Mgr. Têtu's Document A tells us
that, whilst in that place, "he
scandalized many families by his bad
conduct," and that "it is absolutely certain that his uncle,
Dionne, forbade him to enter his house, and that many parents sent
their children to confession to the neighbouring parishes, to protect
them from the baneful contact of their Curé." He remained at
Kamouraska till 1846, when one Sunday in September he astonished the
congregation by announcing that he was leaving the place to join the
Noviciate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate at Longeuil. What was the
In his Fifty Years he tells
us that the ghastly spectacle of an
all-pervading priestly immorality made him desire to fly to a place of
refuge where he was assured it did not enter (p. 280). In his
announcement to his people during the High Mass -- we learn from M.
Mailloux (Document B), who
tells us he has good authority for what he
says -- he declared that he had long felt drawn to the religious life,
but had resisted the call, which he could do no longer; besides it was
bad for his soul to be so loved, honoured, and venerated as he was by
his flock at Kamouraska. It was whispered, however, that there was
another reason of a different kind which had most to do with the sudden
change. "In 1846," says Document A,
"tradition relates that he was
caught in the very act of a sin against morals, and was thereupon
obliged to leave the diocese of Quebec." This document acknowledges
that the archives of Archbishop's House in Quebec contain no official
document regarding the crime (which, if Chiniquy by leaving at once
avoided a formal trial, there need not have been).
But that there was
some ground for the suspicion
is implied in allusions to it in a
private letter contained in Document
E. On May 21, 1848, his faithful
friend, M. Brassard, always so difficult to convince of the faults of
his protégé, wrote to Bishop Bourget of Montreal a letter
in which he begs the bishop to allow Chiniquy to be his locum-tenens
for a short time at Longeuil, and, whilst endeavouring to forestall the
bishop's probable objections, says: "I have reason for thinking that
his bad conduct [mauvaise histoire] at Kamouraska is only known to his
superiors and perhaps to one or two priests, for my brother the doctor,
an intimate friend of the late J. Bte. Tache and of M. Dionne, the
sworn enemies of M. Chiniquy, told me two years ago that these
gentlemen could not refuse M. Chiniquy a certificate of morality, and
that he himself, at that time a sworn enemy of priests, had only to
reproach him with an excess of zeal. Besides, it seems to me that M.
Chiniquy has paid heavily for his fault."
For whatever motives, he joined the Oblates at their house at Longeuil,
in the diocese of St. Hyacinthe, and at the time they seem to have
thought themselves fortunate in the acquisition of so famous a
preacher, "the most eminent priest in the diocese of Quebec," as the
Père Honorat described him to M. Mailloux, (Doc. B). But they
soon had occasion to change their minds about his fitness for their
life, and he parted with them -- or they with him -- after a thirteen
months' sojourn under their roof. According to his own account "when he
pressed them to his heart for the last time, he felt the burning tears
of many of them falling on his checks . . . for they loved him and he
loved them " (p. 312). And yet, as M. Mailloux tells us in his Notes
(Doc. B), "he carried away with him from the Oblates a paper in
he painted them in the worst colours," a paper which M. Mailloux, to
whose house he went that some day, "refused to receive from his hands,
accompanying his refusal with words which M. Chiniquy would not be able
to forget." What the nature of this portraiture of the Oblate Fathers
-- a portraiture in the truth of which M. Mailloux evidently
disbelieved -- may have been, we may perhaps judge from what he says
about them in his Fifty Years
Now that he was free from the Oblates his natural course was to return
to his own diocese of Quebec, and ask for another post. But M. Mailloux
tells us that "to give him one there
could not be thought of."
Apparently that diocese had had enough of him, either because of the
circumstances known to them in connection with his leaving Kamouraska,
or because of his general intractability.
Nor would the Bishop of Montreal give him a fixed post, and he was
forced to seek hospitality with his old friend M. Brassard, then
Curé of Longeuil, the parish in which was the Oblate House he
had just quitted. M. Brassard suggested that he should give up the idea
of stationary work, and devote himself wholly to temperance missions,
and for this he managed to obtain permission from Bishop Bourget (of
It was in this work during the next four years that Chiniquy acquired
what was certainly the best distinction of his life. He was most
extravagant in his language and reckless in his statements, so much so
as to elicit from Mgr. Bourget some prudent admonitions. But he had
undoubtedly a gift of fiery though undisciplined eloquence and could
appeal with effect to the sensibility of his hearers. Nor, though the
effects, according to his own acknowledgements, were not as lasting as
they might have been had he been more solid and prudent in his advocacy
and had he relied more on spiritual and less on merely secular motives,
did he fail to do an amount of good to which even those whom he most
abused generously testify. Thus M. Mailloux writes of him at this time
(Doc. B): "No one in the
country can deny that by his sermons on behalf
of temperance he has dried many tears; he has brought back peace and
happiness to a great many families; he has raised from the gutter many
thousands of his unfortunate countrymen; and has set a mark of
dishonour on the mania for drinking and getting intoxicated at
weddings, meals, family feasts, friendly gatherings, in short in the
social relations of the Canadians."
The year 1851 now drew on, and it proved to be an eventful year for
Chiniquy's fortunes. According to
his own account (p. 345), he received
from Bishop Vandevelde of Chicago a letter dated December 1, 1850, in
which, addressing him (? on the envelope) as the "Apostle of
Temperance," he invited him to abandon Canada and put himself at the
head of a vast immigration of Canadians which the Bishop wanted to draw
into the as yet uncolonised parts of Illinois, south of Kankakee. In
this way they would be preserved from the temptations of the cities and
their Protestantism, and would be kept together in communities apart,
and so become one day a great political force in the United States.
Only, the proposal was to be kept for the present a secret, as the
Canadian bishops in their selfishness would oppose a movement, however
beneficial in itself, which could not but reduce the population of
their own parishes.
Whether Bishop Vandevelde ever wrote
such a letter may be doubted, for
the style as Chiniquy gives it in his book is suspiciously like his
own, nor is it likely that the bishop would have made this
discreditable request for secrecy to the prejudice of his episcopal
brethren in Canada. Still, it is true that the Bishop of Chicago did
wish, not to entice Canadian colonists into his diocese, but to divert
those who were streaming in unasked, from the cities to the new lands
to the south, and that he wanted some Canadian priests to take the
spiritual charge of them. But so far from wishing to keep this desire
secret from the Canadian bishops, he had written a letter -- the text
of which is before us (Doc. E)
-- on March 4, 1850, to Mgr. Bourget of
Montreal. In it he lays his trouble before that prelate, and begs for a
Canadian priest or two in most moving terms. Possibly it was as the
result of this letter that M. Lebel, of Kamouraska, was sent, and so
came to be stationed in Chicago when Chiniquy afterwards arrived.
Anyhow, there is no mention of Chiniquy in this letter from Bishop
Vandevelde to Bishop Bourget. He went, however, in May, 1851, to
Illinois to give a temperance mission to the Canadians there, and took
with him a letter from Bishop Bourget, dated May 7, 1851, in which the
latter asks Bishop Vandevelde to "regard M. Chiniquy as his own priest
all the time he is doing work in his diocese," adding, in the humble
and tender tone which characterizes all the letters of that truly
saintly man: "I trust that his fervent prayers will draw down upon his
ministry the copious benedictions of Heaven, and that I myself may
experience some of the fruits of them, I who am the last of all."
It would be a mistake, however, merely from this expression of hope
that Chiniquy's prayers might be fruitful, to conclude that the bishop
was altogether at ease about him. He wrote him a letter, likewise dated
May 7, 1851 (Doc. E), in
which he gives him some counsels -- namely:
take strict precautions in your relations with persons of the
avoid carefully all that might savour of ostentation, and the
desire to attract attention; simplicity is so beautiful and loveable a
pay to the priests of the country the honour due to their ministry;
the glory of God is the best recompense of an apostolic man."
That the last two of these counsels were given in view of Chiniquy's
personal temperament is sufficiently manifest. That the rest was also,
Chiniquy himself must have understood, since in his letter back to the
bishop, dated May 13, 1851 (Doc. E),
he writes: "I will not end without
asking your lordship to let me be the first told of it, when detraction
or calumny casts at your feet its poisons against me. You cannot
believe, Monseigneur, how much harm, doubtless without wishing it, you
have done to my benefactor and friend, M. Brassard, by confiding to him
in the first place certain things which for his happiness and mine he
should never have known. If I am guilty it seems to me I ought to bear
the weight of my iniquity. And if I am innocent, and it is calumny
which is pouring out its poisons over my soul, God will give me the
strength, as He has done already in more than one circumstance, to bear
all and to pardon all. But let these empoisoned darts wound my soul
only, not that of my friend."
These are fair-sounding words, doubtless, and might be the words of an
innocent man. Whether they are so or not we can only judge by taking
them in connection with what else we can get from independent sources.
But we quote them now as testifying that "in more than one
circumstance" Chiniquy had been suspected, and, as Bishop
apparently thought, not always without ground. Suspicion is not the
same as conviction, but we shall hear more presently of Bishop
Bourget's mind on the subject. Still, it is a point to notice, even at
this stage, that Chiniquy should have been so unfortunate as to excite
suspicions of the same character in so many independent quarters. His
uncle Dionne, and therefore some of his school-masters, had suspected
him in this way in his youth: the diocesan authorities of Quebec had so
far suspected him as to refuse him further work in that diocese: and
now we have Bishop Bourget
entertaining similar suspicions of him.
Nor can we in this connection leave out of account another thing that
may, perhaps, throw a little light on the unpleasantness of his visit
to Detroit, which took place just at this time, namely, whilst
on the way to Chicago. We will have heard his own version of the
contretemps which caused him to hasten his departure from that
neighbourhood (p. 349), but an American friend assures us that a
version of another kind was given him by the late Very Rev. P.
Hermaert, formerly Vicar-General of Detroit. That version is that
Chiniquy, who used to visit Detroit on his temperance mission from time
to time, had been complained of to the bishop for his offensive
attentions to the daughter of a respectable family. During one of his
visits he found that the bishop was going to call him to account for
his misconduct, and he hastened away before the bishop could return to
He arrived at Chicago on this temporary visit in June, 1851, and went
on to Bourbonnais. But he was back again by the middle of July, and on
August 13th published in the Canadian papers a glowing account of the
prairies of Illinois, assuring the Canadians that, unless they were
quite comfortable at home, their best course was to go there to settle,
which they could do with a certainly of immediate comfort if they only
had two hundred dollars with them to start with (p. 354).
This letter caused a great stir, and induced a great many young men to
respond to the advice, but at the same time aroused much indignation
among their pastors, who saw, what the result proved to be the case,
that the scheme was wild, and
that famine rather than speedy prosperity
was to be anticipated for those who were caught by it. Chiniquy did
not, however, indicate in this public letter that it was part of the
scheme for him to be at the head of the emigration, as probably it was
not at that time, though it looks as if he were working up towards such
In the account in his Fifty Years
Chiniquy gives the readers to
understand that he was going to Illinois in response to an invitation
prompted by a sense of his merits, and that he was going in a spirit of
generosity, and at great sacrifice to his own cherished objects. "I
determined (he says) to sacrifice the exalted position God had given me
in Canada, to guide the footsteps of the Roman Catholic emigrants from
France, Belgium, and Canada towards the regions of the West in order to
extend the power and influence of my Church all over the United States"
(p. 353). We have our doubts, however, whether his departure for this
new sphere of work was so entirely spontaneous, and even whether it was
in response to any invitation at all, and not rather because he had
begged to be allowed to go, his position in Canada being no longer
tenable. Let us see.
In September, 1851, a very
unpleasant thing happened to him. "I found,"
he says, "on September 28, 1851, a short letter on my table from Bishop
Bourget, telling me that, for a criminal action, which he did not want
to mention, committed with a person he would not name, he had withdrawn
all priestly powers and interdicted me" (p. 363). He went "two hours
later" to see the bishop, to assert his entire innocence, and to ask
for the crime to be stated and the witnesses made known, so that he
might meet them face to face and confute them. But this, he tells us,
the bishop sternly and coldly refused to do. Then, after taking counsel
with M. Brassard, he went off that night to the Jesuit Collège
of St. Marie, at Montreal. It was to make "an eight days' retreat," and
likewise to have the "help of [Father Schneider's] charity, justice,
and experience in forcing the bishop to withdraw his unjust sentence
against [him]." He represents Father Schneider as helping him
cordially, and, as his (Chiniquy's) reflections made him suspect that
his accuser was a certain girl whom shortly before he had turned away
from his confessional, believing that she had come to entrap him,
Father Schneider had the girl found and brought to the Collège.
There, in Father Schneider's presence, and under the influence of
Chiniquy's firm cross-examination, she owned that "he was not guilty,"
but that she "had come to his confessional to tempt him to sin," and
that it was to "revenge [herself] for his rebuking her that she had
made the accusation." This was on the third day of his retreat, and
therefore on October 2nd, a
date we may find it convenient to remember.
When the retreat was over, he went back to the bishop to whom he had
already sent a copy of the girl's retraction. The bishop, he says,
fully accepted it as clearing his character, and as proof that he had
nothing against him gave him a "letter expressive of his kindly
feelings," and also a "chalice from [his] hands" with which he might
offer the Holy Sacrifice for the rest of his life.
It must be clearly understood that this is Chiniquy's account of what
happened, and that he first gave it, not at the time of the occurrence,
but nearly six years later, in a
letter dated April 18, 1857, which was
addressed to Bishop Bourget from St. Anne's Kankakee, and was published
in the Canadian press (p. 526). Until then nothing had been publicly
known about the story of this girl. The occasion of this letter being
written arose out of the schism which by that time Chiniquy had stirred
up among the French Canadians in Illinois. We shall understand its
character better presently; for the moment it is enough to say that
Bishop Bourget had thought it necessary to undeceive these poor French
Canadians by revealing to them some of Chiniquy's antecedents.
Accordingly, when at the beginning of 1857 some of them, who had
renounced their momentary schism, sent him a consoling letter to
announce the fact, he replied on March 19, 1857, by a letter (Doc. C)
addressed "to the Canadian Catholics of Bourbonnais" which letter "was
read out in the Bourbonnais Church on Passion Sunday, March 29th" (of
that year). We shall have to refer to this letter again afterwards, but
must give a long extract from it now.
"M. Chiniquy sets himself on another
pedestal to capture admiration, by
pretending that God has made him the friend, the father, and the
saviour of the emigrants. To judge from these pompous words one would
have to believe that he only quitted Canada for the grand work of
after the thousands of Canadians scattered over all parts of the vast
territory of the American Union. But here again I am going to oppose M.
Chiniquy with M. Chiniquy, for I suppose that, even if he refuses to
believe the words of the bishops, he will at least believe his own. I
am going to give an extract from a letter written by this gentleman,
but that its nature may be the better understood, I should say that on
September 27, 1851, I withdrew from him all the powers I had given him
in the diocese, for reasons I gave him in a letter which he ought to
have preserved, and which he may publish if he thinks that I have
unjustly persecuted him. Under the weight of this terrible blow he
wrote to me on October 4th following this letter: --
"'Monsignor, tribulations surround me
on all sides. I perceive that I
must take the sad road of exile, but who will have pity on a proscribed
man on a foreign soil, when he whom he had looked up to as his father
has no longer a word of mercy for him? . . . As soon as my retreat is
finished I shall go and embrace my poor brothers and mingle my tears
with theirs. Then I shall bid an eternal farewell to my country; and I
shall go and hide the disgrace of my position in the obscurest and
least known corner of the United States. If, when my retreat is ended,
I may hope to receive the word of mercy which you thought it necessary
to refuse me yesterday, let me know for the sake of the God of mercy,
and gladly will I go to receive it before setting out. It will fall
like balm on my wounded soul, and will sweeten the rigours of exile.'
It was under these distressing
sensations and in these painful
circumstances that he decided to preach the Canadian emigration."
Our readers will note several things
about this letter.
First, it was
written From St. Marie's Collège while he was still in retreat
under Father Schneider, and on October 4th -- that is to say, two days
after the supposed visit and retraction of the unnamed girl.
And yet there is not in it a word of reference to this retraction, nor
is what he does say consistent with that story -- for Chiniquy
certainly does not write as if he felt confident that the bishop would
now acknowledge his innocence and reinstate him.
Secondly, the letter
shows that he was going reluctantly to Illinois, and (so far as he knew
then), not to preach, but to hide his disgrace in obscurity.
the whole tone of the letter is one of a man who pleads for mercy, not
of one who protests his innocence.
Fourthly, the circumstances
which it was written imply that he was professing, even if he did not
feel, a hearty repentance for an offence committed; since it is evident
Bishop Bourget deemed him guilty, and that being so, neither would he
have removed the suspension, nor Bishop Vandevelde have accepted him
for his diocese, unless he had professed repentance.
Fifthly, two other
contemporary letters that are before us (Doc. E) point in the same
direction. For on October 6th Bishop Bourget wrote to Chiniquy, while
still in retreat at St. Marie's, a letter which is apparently the
answer to Chiniquy's of October 4th. It breathes the same spirit as all
Bishop Bourget's letters, and the reader may judge if it is that of an
"Monsieur, I am praying myself and
getting others to pray for you, and
my heart is not so deaf as you appear to think. My desire is that the
most sincere repentance may penetrate down to the very depths and to
the innermost parts of your heart. I pray for this with all the fervour
of my soul, and if I am not heard it will assuredly be because of my
innumerable infidelities. O! that I could be free to weep over them,
and to bury myself for ever in some Chartreuse, under one of the sons
of St. Bruno, whose happy and holy feast the Church keeps to-day."
In this letter the Bishop makes no reference to Chiniquy going to the
United States, probably because that project was not as yet arranged.
But M. Brassard, on hearing of the misfortune of his
protégé, took advantage of Bishop Vandevelde's presence
at the time in the neighbourhood, and besought that prelate to give him
a chance of retrieving himself.
A letter from Bishop Vandevelde to Bishop Bourget was a result of this.
It is dated "Troy, October 15, 1851," and contains the following
passage, the only one of interest to us now:
"After all the instances
made by M. le Curé de Longeuil (M. Brassard), and the promises
of his protégé, I consented to give the latter a trial on
condition that he got an exeat from Mgr. Bourget exclusively for the
diocese of Chicago" (Doc. E).
It will be admitted that these various letters throw on the episode of
September 25, 1851, a light somewhat
different from that in which it
appears in Chiniquy's own published account above given, and
be something further to say on the matter presently. But we have heard
Chiniquy appeal to two testimonials of esteem, a letter and a chalice,
which the Bishop gave him as a means by which he might always be able
to vindicate his character in regard to the charge brought against him
by this girl. Let us now investigate this point.
The letter is a letter written by Bishop Bourget in response to Bishop
Vandevelde's stipulation that Chiniquy, before he could accept him,
must have an exeat for the diocese of Chicago. It runs as follows (p.
"Montreal, October 13, 1851.
"The Rev. Charles Chiniquy.
"You ask my permission to leave my diocese, to go and offer your
services to the Bishop of Chicago. As you belong to the diocese of
Quebec, I think it belongs to my Lord the Archbishop to give you the
dismissal you wish. As for me I cannot but thank you for your labours
amongst us, and I wish you in return the most abundant blessings from
Heaven. You shall ever be in my remembrance and in my heart, and I hope
that divine Providence will permit me at a future time to testify all
the gratitude I owe you.
"Meanwhile, I remain your very humble and obedient servant,
"+Ignatius, Bishop of Montreal."
Chiniquy describes this letter as a "testimonial of esteem" (p. 528),
and again as "a perfect recantation of all he had said and done against
me" (p. 370). Perhaps an undiscerning reader will be disposed to agree
in that estimate of its language; but a Catholic acquainted with the
style of an exeat, or permission to leave one diocese for another, will
rather take it as a proof of Chiniquy's insincerity that he should thus
represent it, for we may be sure he knew better what was significant
about this particular document. The complimentary words refer to the
results he had attained by his temperance preaching, and it is in
keeping with Bishop Bourget's character that, in his desire to say the
best he could of the unfortunate man, he should give generous
recognition to what stood to his credit.
As he himself says (Doc. D)
on this point, "We said nothing too much in
adding that we protested to him that the diocese of Montreal would
never forget his labours for the establishment of temperance. But all
this proves that if we refused faculties to M. Chiniquy, it was solely
for a motive of conscience, and for the good of the souls for whom we
shall have to answer one day before God."
But what is really significant about this "testimonial of esteem" is
that it contains not a word of
testimonial to Chiniquy's personal
integrity. There is generally a printed form for these exeats,
space left to fill in names and anything extra the bishop may think fit
to add; and that there was such an one then in use in the diocese of
Montreal may be seen from the exeat Chiniquy gives as having been
issued to him about a year previously (p. 324). There, in the printed
part, we have the phrase "[Charles Chiniquy . . . ] is very well known
us, and we regard him as leading a praiseworthy life in consonance with
his ecclesiastical profession, and bound by no ecclesiastical censures
so far as is known to us."
But in the "exeat" of October 13, 1851, there is a significant omission
of any such attestation of personal character as would certainly have
been inserted had it been possible to give it truthfully. And the
Archbishop of Quebec, who, as Mgr. Bourget says, was the prelate whose
exeat was needful, seems to have given it on October 19th, in response
to the solicitations of Mgr. Bourget and M. Brassard, but with similar
omissions. For Bishop Bourget, in forwarding it to Mgr. Vandevelde on
October 18th (Doc. E), speaks
of it as "not altogether in conformity
with your desires," and Mgr. Têtu (Doc. A) says, "The Bishop of
Quebec gave him an exeat for the diocese of Chicago without a single
word of recommendation." So much in correction of the false
construction which Chiniquy puts upon Bishop Bourget's exeat.
The construction he puts upon the gift
of a chalice is not less
misleading. "The best proof," he says in the letter written to
Bourget on April 18, 1857, "that you know very well that I was not
interdicted by your rash and unjust sentence is that you gave me that
chalice as a token of your esteem and of my honesty" (p. 529). It
proved nothing of the sort.
Chiniquy had professed, whether sincerely or not, that he was truly
sorry for the offences which had led to his suspension, and though
Bishop Bourget did not feel justified in giving him further employment,
Bishop Vandevelde, who was sadly in want of priests, was inclined to
give him another chance. Accordingly the suspension was taken off him
and, as he was about to start an entirely new mission, nothing was more
natural than that Bishop Bourget should give him a chalice -- not,
indeed, for himself, but for the mission about to be started and in
need of sacred vessels.
So far these contemporary letters
convict Chiniquy of untruthfulness,
and this may dispose us to doubt whether it is true that, when
suspending him on September 28th, Bishop Bourget refused to tell him
either the nature of the crime imputed to him or the name of the
accuser. Be it recollected that in Bishop Bourget's Letter to the
Canadians of Bourbonnais (Doc. C)
he says that he suspended Chiniquy
"for reasons stated in a letter which
he must have kept and which he
may publish if he likes."
Chiniquy's reply to this challenge in his letter to the papers of April
18, 1857, was by bringing forward his story of the girl coming
confessional, and one would like to know what the Bishop's comment on
it may have been. We can have it, for the Bishop, who naturally could
not engage in a newspaper controversy with a suspended priest, thought
it well that his clergy should know the true facts now that Chiniquy
was endeavouring to misrepresent them.
Accordingly he drew up the paper we have called Doc. D, and of which we
have before us a certified copy taken from the archives of the diocese
of Montreal. It is entitled Explanations
of certain Facts
misrepresented by Chiniquy in his Letter of April 18, 1857, and
dated May 6, 1857. It begins with the words, "These explanations are
confided to the wise discretion of the priests, so that each may make
such use of them as he thinks desirable." There will then be no
impropriety in our quoting from them at this distance of time. The
following passage bears on the point now before us:
"M. Chiniquy pretends that we did not
tell him for what crime we
withdrew his faculties. This is false, for we told it to him with all
possible distinctness (en toutes lettres) in our letter of September
29th [? 27], 1851, which nevertheless he cites as if it were to his
"He pretends that we refused him all
means of justifying himself. To
this we reply that our invariable practice has been not to proceed
canonically against any one whatever except when the accusers were
resolved to sustain their accusations under oath and in the presence of
the person they accuse. If M. Chiniquy desires to appeal to the
Archbishop of Quebec, or to the Pope, he will find us perfectly
prepared to satisfy him on this point.
"As to the incident of the poor girl whom he brings on the scene, it is
so disadvantageous to him that he would have done better for his own
credit to be silent about it. However much it costs us we will explain
about this incident, as it is the sole argument on which he relies to
create the impression that the bishops are tyrants who oppress and
condemn their priests without a shadow of justice. Some time after the
culpability of M. Chiniquy had been clearly demonstrated to us a
certain girl came to depose against him, who said she would feel an
intense repugnance to be confronted with him. This testimony therefore
could not, in conformity with our ordinary method of proceeding, enter
into the evidence against him. So we contented ourselves with telling
this gentleman that, over and beyond all that had been deposed against
him, a certain girl had quite recently complained of him.
"Now see what M. Chiniquy does. He confines himself to this fact alone,
sends for the girl and gets her to retract. To all this bit of scheming
(manège) we replied by pointing out the contradiction between M.
Chiniquy's words and his actions, saying to him: 'You pretended that
you did not know this girl when I refused to name her to you. How,
then, was it so easy for you to find her and make her retract?' And to
this he had nothing to reply at that time. Hence what he says now (in
1857) about this girl, namely, that it was she who wished to tempt him;
that it was in vengeance that she had accused him, and that he had been
able to discover her by means of a certain individual whom he had
remarked exchanging a few words with her, is a story which any sensible
man will see is made up after the event. Moreover, this girl afterwards
confirmed her first deposition, under oath, and it was certainly not
from us that she received one hundred dollars for that if indeed it is
true at all that she was paid."
We can judge now what were the real
motives that caused M. Chiniquy to
abandon Canada for Illinois, and whether he has stated them truthfully.
Probably our readers will consider that he has not, and that, on the
principle "false in one thing false in all," he has created a
presumption against the truth of any future allegations he may make,
those only excepted which are confirmed by independent witnesses.
Keeping this presumption in mind, we
must pass on to consider his life
He arrived at Chicago towards the end of October, 1851, and was at once
sent on by Bishop Vandevelde to a district some sixty miles south of
Chicago. This was the district of Bourbonnais, and there he proceeded
to build a church and found a mission at St. Anne, a place some ten
miles south of the town of Bourbonnais, where one had been founded
already and was under the charge of a M. Courjeault.
Later, he tells us, and doubtless correctly, he founded two other
missions further south still, one at l'Erable, one at St. Marie's in
the county of the Iroquois. But St. Anne's was his centre of action and
place of residence throughout. There he built his first church and
gathered round him his chief congregation of Canadian settlers. The
first four or five years of his life in those parts were marked by
various quarrels with neighbouring priests, all of whom he sets
despicable blackguards. But this period we must pass over with just a
mention of the charge brought against him by some of his neighbours of
burning down the church at Bourbonnais on June 5, 1853, with the motive
of collecting money from Canada for the rebuilding fund, which he
afterwards misappropriated. M.
Mailloux, in his letter of March 28,
1858 (Doc. A), to Bishop
Smith, then administrator of Chicago, states
that "this charge was made before witnesses in the presence of Bishop
O'Regan," and that "Chiniquy never
exonerated himself from it." And
Bishop Bourget refers to it in his letter to Chiniquy himself of
November 21, 1853 (Doc. E):
"I will tell you now that the report which
is current here [in Montreal] is that money sent you from Montreal for
your churches does not reach its destination, but is kept back by you
for your own use. If this were the case Montreal would cease to aid you
in that way."
But let us come at once to the year 1856. By that time Bishop
Vandevelde had vacated the diocese. The dampness of the Chicago climate
aggravated his rheumatism and rendered him incapable of doing his work
properly, so he asked to be released altogether from episcopal
administration, or else to be translated to some see further south.
This, and not any such reason as Chiniquy assigns, was the reason why
he went to Natchez, to which see he was translated in the autumn of
1853. Bishop O'Regan, the
conflicting accounts of whose character and
personality we have already given, succeeded
Bishop Vandevelde in the
autumn of 1854. If Chiniquy is to be believed, as on a point of
sort probably he is, a state of tension between him and his new bishop
But however that may be, he appears by the summer of
1856 to have become most anxious to get back to Canada. For from
Bourget's Letter to the Canadian Catholics of Bourbonnais (Doc. C) we
learn that on August 9, 1856, Chiniquy wrote to him a letter in which
he begs to be allowed to return to Canada, and suggests a useful work
there which he and he only could carry through.
"If" (he says in this letter) "you
place an insurmountable barrier in
the way of my return to Canada, ask God to give me the strength to
drink the chalice of humiliations and sacrifices down to the dregs.
For, I will not conceal it from you, one of my most ardent desires is
to see Canada again. . . . The principal citizens of Montreal have
expressed the desire to see me again, and their surprise at my long
absence. There are sad secrets in the life of priests and bishops into
which it would be deplorable if the world were to penetrate."
Which last sentence appears to mean that, in face of the demand for his
return by the principal citizens of Montreal, it would be better to let
him return than risk the possibility of the reason for his exclusion
getting out, and giving scandal. But what was the work he desired to
undertake in Canada?
"The sore which under the name of
emigration is devouring our people is
not sufficiently understood in Canada; or else firmer and more
energetic steps would be taken to restrain it. . . . Of all the
clergy I am unquestionably the one who has had the best opportunities
of knowing what this sore of emigration is. No one that I can think of
has been able in Canada or the United States to sound its depths as I
have done. It is not in an easy chair, in one of the fair presbyteries
of Canada, that I have studied the causes and disastrous consequences
of emigration. . . . Further, Monsignor, with all this information I
a great desire to go and cast myself at your knees and beseech you to
let me say a word to the people in the towns and villages of Canada on
this emigration, its causes, its consequences, and its remedies. This
word, the fruit of prolonged studies and solid reflections, would not
lack, you may be sure, that force and eloquence which springs from
profound convictions and a sincere desire to hold back a whole race of
brothers who are rushing rapidly to their ruin. For five years now I
have been eating the bread of exile . . . but believe me, Monsignor, I
have facts and arguments, the exposition of which would resound with
irresistible force on both banks of the St. Lawrence . . . and which,
God's grace, might result in a great good, by stopping this great evil.
And my discourses on this vital question would be the more appreciated,
and would have the more effect, because the mendacious press of Canada
has accused me of favouring the emigration of my fellow-countrymen."
This appeal, written in August,
1856, may well surprise us, when we
bethink ourselves of the same man's letter of August, 1851 (see
published by himself in all the Canadian papers, inviting the Canadians
to come en masse to the district in which he hoped himself to settle,
and describing it in such glowing terms that it came to be called
But our surprise increases when we learn that
four months later, in December,
1856, this same writer reverted to his
former contention, and in another public letter to the Canadian
took credit to himself for the invitation to emigrate to Illinois
which, when he gave it five years previously, had been maliciously
condemned by the Canadian clergy, but which he declared had now been
entirely justified by the event. This was in a public letter to a M.
Moreau, a Montreal lawyer, the following extract from which is given by
Mgr. Bourget in his Letter to the Canadians of Bourbonnais.
"When I left Longeuil in 1851, having
for my only provision the
breviary under my arm, to run after the emigrants who were losing
themselves in the corners of the United States, I was treated
everywhere as a deceiver and a visionary, bishops and priests in Canada
denounced me as a liar . . . the papers pledged to the Canadian clergy
spread false news about the fine and noble parish of Bourbonnais. And
yet, in spite of this fearful combination of hypocrisy, calumny, and
falsehood directed against me, I have succeeded in four years in
creating all by myself a foundation so fine and solid, with the aid of
my poor brethren from Canada, that M. Desaulniers was filled with
admiration when he saw it with his own eyes" (Doc. C).
It is impossible, after comparing these varying epistles, not to feel
that Chiniquy's method was to say, not what he thought to be true, but
rather what he thought would best serve his interests at the moment.
Still, it is also impossible not to feel that something serious must
have happened between August and December, 1856, to make such a change
of tone seem to him expedient. Was
it that in August he had grounds for
thinking that a storm was gathering around him which he might, perhaps,
escape if he could have an honourable pretext for at once leaving
Illinois, but that by December the storm had broken, and he deemed his
only course was to brave it by taking up an attitude of injured
innocence and of revolt? What comes next may help us to solve
On August 19th, ten days after his letter to Mgr. Bourget, Chiniquy was
suspended by Bishop O'Regan (Doc.
A). What was the cause? From his
pages it is impossible to get any definite information.
In one place the bishop is made to say that he suspended him for his
stubbornness and want of submission when he ordered him to leave St.
Anne and go to Kakokia, on the banks of the Mississippi (p. 441). In
another he tells us he asked the Bishop "to make a public inquest about
him, and have his accusers confront him" (p. 439), which does not tally
with the notion of an offence so palpable as a refusal to go where
sent, and points to some offence of a secret kind, such as one against
morality. In a third place (p. 449) he suggests that the suspension was
inflicted because he would not give up to the Bishop the property in
his church at St. Anne — again not the kind of offence to establish
which required confronting with accusers, and public inquests, since
all that was necessary, if Chiniquy wished to justify himself, was for
him to say, "I am quite ready to do all necessary to effect the
required transfer of the property."
Bishop O'Regan himself is much clearer (Doc. E). In a letter to Bishop
Prince, then coadjutor of Montreal, he says, under date of November 20,
"The question of the property in the
church had nothing to do
with the removal of M. Chiniquy from St. Anne's, or with his
disobedience, his schism, and his subsequent excommunication. . . . I
in my hands all through the legal titles to all the church property
which no one could dispute. . . . I came to this last conclusion
to remove him from St. Anne's to Kakokia) for reasons of urgent
necessity which I told him at the time and which he is free to make
public [words which distinctly point to some offence against
morality] . . . his obstinate disobedience [namely, in refusing to go
Kakokia], and the excessive violence of his language and behaviour
obliged me to suspend him; his subsequent schism brought on his
And this agrees with what M.
Mailloux wrote to Bishop Smith, in the
letter of March 28, 1858, already quoted from (Doc. A): —
"I have lived here [at Bourbonnais]
since one year. In Canada I knew
Mr. Chiniquy very well. I know what his conduct was morally, but the
moment is not favourable to mention it. . . .
Before interdicting Mr.
Chiniquy, Bishop O'Regan had received grave testimonials regarding the
moral conduct of Mr. Chiniquy. I am fully acquainted with the facts and
The Sunday following the interdiction issued
against Mr. Chiniquy, on August 19, 1856, by the bishop's order, it was
published in the churches at Bourbonnais and l'Erable that he had
suspended Mr. Chiniquy from his functions.
Mr. Chiniquy having
violated that interdiction, Bishop O'Regan had him publicly
excommunicated on September 3rd following. Mr. Chiniquy had in Canada,
and still has here, the reputation of being a man of most notorious
immorality. The many women he has seduced, or tried to seduce, are
ready to testify thereunto. Those who in this country [Bourbonnais]
have lived in Mr. Chiniquy's intimacy loudly proclaim that he has lost
his faith long ago, and that he is an infamous hypocrite."
Chiniquy, as we have seen, resisted
the excommunication as he had
resisted the suspension, and continued to minister at St.
capturing the support of his congregation by representing the bishop as
having brought against him an accusation which he knew was false and
had not attempted to sustain, the bishop's underlying motive being
hatred for the French Canadians, whom he wished to drive out of his
diocese. It was a great scandal, and Bishop O'Regan was anxious to end
Accordingly he wrote to Bishop Bourget, on October 19, 1856, asking
for help (Doc. E).
"Mr. Chiniquy [he says] has thoroughly
corrupted the unhappy people
under his care. This has been the work of some years. It was begun long
before I came to this diocese, and I know not how it will terminate.
The mischief can only be remedied by a few worthy, pious, and
intelligent Canadian priests. If I had one such he could do much, as
there is a Canadian settlement not yet corrupted a few miles from St.
Anne's, where such a priest being located would soon take away most of
his followers. This would be a holy mission for some pious, educated,
and devoted priest. He would protect religion and some hundreds from
the wicked man who now deceives them."
The result was that Bishop Bourget sent M. Brassard, Chiniquy's old
friend and patron, and M. Desaulniers, one of his former classmates,
with whom, by his own acknowledgement, "he had been united" ever since
"in the bonds of the sincerest friendship." The choice shows that their
desire in coming was to convert Chiniquy himself as well as his
misguided people. They arrived at St. Anne's on November 24, 1856, and
by the next day had succeeded so far as to get him to sign the
following form of retraction [addressed to the bishop] (p. 515):
"As my actions and writings in
opposition to your orders have for the
last two months given scandal, and caused many to believe that sooner
than obey you I would consent to be separated from the Catholic Church,
I hasten to express to you the regret I feel for such acts and
writings. And in order to show the world, and you, my Bishop, my firm
desire to live and die a Catholic, I hasten to write to your lordship
to say that I submit to your sentence, and promise never more to
exercise the sacred ministry in your diocese, without your permission.
In consequence, I beg your lordship to take off the censures you have
pronounced against me, and against those who have communicated with me
in things divine.
"I am your most devoted son in Jesus
This retraction cannot be called
satisfactory, for it equivocal in its
language, and breathes no real sentiments of penitence. But it
taken in Chiniquy's name to Bishop O'Regan the next day by M.
Desaulniers. M. Brassard remaining with his friend, to await the
result. The bishop said to M. Desaulniers, "I would prefer that
[Chiniquy] should go away without any retraction rather than give that
one, and I shall, as soon as he abandons St. Anne's and gives security
that he will not return, have no objection to remove his censures
without any retraction" (Doc. E
- O'Regan to Desaulniers, December 15,
1856, in which the bishop refers to his words on November 25th).
Chiniquy's conduct, when he learnt
that the bishop would not make peace
with him on his own terms, thoroughly justified the latter's action.
Had the unhappy man been really penitent he would have obeyed orders
and left the neighbourhood. As it was he persisted in his schism,
declaring that he had only signed the retraction as an act of grace
and on the condition that he was to be left at St. Anne's, at least as
an assistant priest to his friend M. Brassard -- a quite inadmissible
condition, of which there is no trace in the text of the retraction.
And he even had the impudence and irreverence to say that in
acknowledging that his action had given scandal he had acknowledged no
more than our Lord had acknowledged when He said "You shall all be
scandalized in Me this night" (see Doc.
D, which refers to this plea
and comments on it). Thus there was nothing more to be done with the
unhappy man save to bear with him, and strive to undeceive his
congregation, for which purpose M. Desaulniers, at the bishop's
request, took up his abode at Bourbonnais; whilst M. Brassard, whose
methods of dealing with Chiniquy the bishop found compromising, was
invited to return to Canada.
M. Desaulniers found his work hard, but achieved some success in
reclaiming the schismatics, for Bishop Bourget told Bishop Baillargeon,
the administrator of Quebec, on February 4, 1857, that "Chiniquy's
followers are apparently diminishing, and are likely to cease
altogether if only a few more priests can be sent to them" (Doc. E);
and on January 1, 1857, a number of them wrote to Bishop Bourget a
consoling letter, in which they expressed their regret for having been
misled, and their readiness to submit in every way to Bishop O'Regan.
This letter was sent by Bishop Bourget to the Canadian papers, and it
was in reply to it that the bishop wrote his Letter to the Canadians of
Bourbonnais, dated March 7, 1857 (see above referring to Doc. C). This reply was taken to
Bourbonnais by Grand Vicar Mailloux, of the diocese of Quebec, and M.
Campeaux, of the diocese of Montreal, who left for Bourbonnais on March
20, 1857, to assist in the conversion of the schismatics. As it was
read from the altar in the church of Bourbonnais, and was published in
all the Canadian papers, it must have been found very disconcerting by
Chiniquy, who sought to discount its effects by a letter addressed to
Bishop Bourget, which he sent to the Canadian papers. It is the letter
of April 18, 1857, to which also we have had occasion to refer
supra), as containing the first
mention of the affair with the
girl at Montreal in 1851.
This letter is given by Chiniquy (p. 526 of his Fifty Years) only in
part, for, as has been noted, Bishop Bourget, in his Explanation of
certain Facts misrepresented by Chiniquy in his Letter of April 18,
1857 (see above, in reference and quotes from Doc. D), quotes as contained in it
the words in which
Chiniquy assimilates the kind of scandal caused by himself with that
caused by our Lord Jesus Christ.
What Bishop Bourget thought of Chiniquy's self-vindication in this
letter we have already heard, but it will be interesting, as throwing
further light on his methods, to know what his friend M. Brassard
thought of it. If we are to believe the account in Fifty Years (p.
529), M. Brassard, after reading the letter of April 18th in the
Canadian papers, wrote Chiniquy a letter in which he said "Your last
letter has completely unmasked our poor Bishop, and revealed to the
world his malice, injustice, and hypocrisy."
Here, however, Mr. Chiniquy seems to have forgotten that, when a man is
engaged in fabricating facts, he should be particularly careful about
his dates. "When," he says, "I
received that last friendly letter from
M. Brassard on April 1, 1857, I was far from suspecting that on the
15th of the same month I should read in the press of Canada the
following lines from him" (p. 530).
"The following lines " were the text of a letter to the Courrier de
Canada, dated April 9th, in which M. Brassard says:
"As some people
suspect that I am favouring the schism of M. Chiniquy, I think it is my
duty to say that I have never encouraged him by my words or writings in
that schism. When I went to St. Anne's . . . my only object was to
persuade that old friend to leave the bad ways in which he was walking.
I hope all the Canadians who were attached to M. Chiniquy when he was
united to the Church will withdraw from him in horror of his schism.
However, we have a duty . . . to call back with our prayers that stray
sheep into the true fold."
As M. Brassard wrote thus on April
9th, it is due to him to believe
that he did not write in so different a sense on April 1st, nor can
this supposed letter of April 1st be genuine, as a letter
before April 1st cannot have been occasioned by a letter published on
April 18th. Besides, if M. Brassard had written thus about unmasking
Bishop Bourget, it is inconceivable that Chiniquy should have written
on April 23rd (Fifty Years, p.
530) to M. Brassard upbraiding him for
the published letter of April 9th, without bringing up against him the
inconsistency between the published and the private letter. Too much
stress, however, must not be laid on this last argument, for we are
safe in assuming that the letter of April 23rd was never sent to M.
Brassard, and was probably a fabrication perpetrated some twenty to
thirty years later, for the purpose of Chiniquy's book. We are
practically safe in assuming this, for a real letter is likely to have
borne some relation to the facts as known to M. Brassard, which this
For instance, this supposed letter asks M. Brassard to say to the
Canadian people what he wrote to Dr. Letourneau, namely, that "they do
not wish to know truth in Canada more than at Chicago about the
shameful conduct of M. Desaulniers in this affair." But M. Brassard, in
a letter to Bishop Bourget of July 10th (Doc. E) tells him that in the
early winter of 1856 his advice to Dr. Letourneau had been: "Go with
your friends to M. Chiniquy and say to him, 'If you will cease from
exercising the ministry we will aid you in obtaining justice if it is
due to you, but if you will not we will abandon you,"' and that he
further recommended Dr. Letourneau "to get all his friends to abandon
him, that finding himself alone he might be constrained to return to
Besides, we have other and more direct proof that Chiniquy was capable
of publishing unreal letters.
On p. 441 of his book he tells us that
Bishop O'Regan "published to the world the most lying stories to
explain his conduct in destroying the French congregation at Chicago,"
whereas that bishop in his letter to Bishop Prince of November 20, 1858
(Doc. E) says:
"I have not contradicted M. Chiniquy's
letters or the advances of his friends in the same matter [namely, the
closing of the French church at Chicago, which had got into
irremediable debt]. I have felt that these documents contained in
themselves their own refutation.
"These writings purport to be, replies
to a letter I am supposed to have
written to the Chicago Tribune.
But I never wrote or published this
pretended letter, nor has any one written or published it for me, save
the astute M. Chiniquy himself."
That means that Chiniquy had forged
and sent to the Chicago papers, as coming from the bishop, a
reality composed by himself, and composed in such terms as to make it
easy for him afterwards to refute it. And M. Mailloux (Doc. B) has
occasion to allude to another public letter written at this same time,
December 17, 1856, by M. Chiniquy. It was written to the "Canadians of
Troy," and purported to be the reply to an address of sympathy sent him
from that quarter. M. Mailloux adds: "We shall see later whether this
address of the Canadians was not written by M. Chiniquy and presented
to M. Chiniquy by himself. If it was so, it was nothing unusual for him
to do." As has been noted, the manuscript of M. Mailloux' memoir is
defective, and so we miss the promised demonstration which doubtless
formed a part of it. (see our first reference describing Document B.)
Now let us come to a further, and still more monstrous, instance of his
dishonesty in the use of letters.
On p. 538 of his book he tells us
that on receiving his letter of April 23, 1857 (the letter we have
surmised to be spurious), M. Brassard was confounded, and wrote to beg
pardon for his untruthful letter of April 9th, which "he had been
forced to sign," and in this alleged letter of apology, dated May 20,
1857, M. Brassard is alleged to have said: " My dear Chiniquy, I am
more convinced than ever that you have never been legally suspended,
now that I have learnt from the Bishop of Montreal that the Bishop of
Chicago interdicted you by word of mouth in his own room -- a kind of
interdiction which Liguori says is null and of no effect."
With this alleged bit of letter a little history is connected. On June
8, 1858 (Doc. E), M. Brassard
wrote to Bishop Bourget, saying. "I
never given any testimony tending to prove that the sentence of
excommunication against M. Chiniquy was not signed by the bishop."
disavowal Bishop Bourget sent on to M. Mailloux (Bishop Bourget to M.
Brassard, July 2, 1858, Doc. E),
then in Bourbonnais, where Chiniquy
was still contending that M. Brassard was on his side. M. Mailloux
wrote back on June 24th to say that he had been glad to make use of the
disavowal, but that the day before (the 23rd) a M. Camille Paré,
a friend of Chiniquy's, had brought some papers among which was an
affidavit of M. Brassard's, signed with his own hand.
"Under oath M. Brassard declares that a letter annexed to [the
affidavit] is his, and that it contains his opinion on the schism of
St. Anne's. In this letter M. Brassard declares that Bishop Bourget had
told him that the suspension of M. Chiniquy was null because it had
been inflicted without witnesses; and M. Brassard further declares that
the bishop told him this was the opinion of Liguori."
Naturally Bishop Bourget was perplexed, and called upon M. Brassard for
an explanation, which the latter gave in two letters to the bishop
dated July 6 and July 10, 1858.
". . . If I must be responsible for all
that it pleases M. Chiniquy and
the inhabitants of St. Anne's to put into my mouth for the furtherance
of their cause I can never hope to clear myself. Indeed, M. Mailloux
himself would be greatly embarrassed if he were to be held responsible
for all that is attributed to him.
"Now let me reply to this latest accusation. I have never written to M.
Chiniquy that your lordship had told me the suspension inflicted on him
was invalid as having been inflicted without witnesses. Nor did I ever
write to him that you had said that this was the opinion of Liguori. If
it is my letter that has been shown to M. Mailloux, he cannot have read
in it any such thing, and if in the letter that was shown to him he
read the phrases I have just cited, that must have been a forged
letter, signature and all.
As for the affidavit, that was truly signed
by me, except for the words that 'it contains my opinion on the schism
at St. Anne's.' Let me explain the history of this affidavit. On the
fourth of last May, after eight o'clock, Camille Paré came to my
house with a letter from M. Chiniquy and one from Mr. Dunn, a Chicago
priest who at the time of my visit two years ago to Chicago was Grand
Vicar, but (as I have learnt since) is so no longer. M. Chiniquy asked
me to make an affidavit acknowledging the genuineness of a letter I had
written to him more than a year ago. It was a letter which he had shown
to the Bishop of Dubuque, and which he regarded as likely to facilitate
his entrance into the good graces of the bishop, but he had been
accused before the bishop of having forged this letter, as well as all
the other papers he had produced at Dubuque, papers on the strength of
which the bishop had consented to send M. Dunn to St. Anne's on on Palm
Sunday to announce the return of peace and to celebrate the divine
offices. M. Dunn wrote to me at the same time in English asking me to
accede to the desire of M. Chiniquy, for the good of religion. It was
this letter from M. Dunn which caused me to consent to declare by
affidavit that the letter annexed to it was in my handwriting and bore
my signature, and that it stated what I thought to be the truth. I
wrote at the same time to M. Chiniquy saying that I was giving him the
affidavit solely for the purpose for which he had asked it, and that it
was not to be published, that it was a confidential letter which I
could not consent to have published. Yet see what use he has made of
it. . . . (See Doc. E).
"I see that he has abused a confidence which I have long since
withdrawn from him, and that he has even abused the last act I did on
his behalf -- one, too, done on the recommendation of M. Dunn, whom I
believed still to be Grand Vicar of Chicago. When then I have done what
your lordship may think desirable [to put a stop to this misuse of his
name], I shall have finished with [M. Chiniquy]."
>From this we see that Chiniquy was
capable of asking for an affidavit
under pretence that it was to attest a genuine letter, and passing it
off as attesting one quite different, which contained seriously false
statements and which he himself had forged. After this we need
have no remaining hesitation in disbelieving the many other letters,
conversations, and occurrences with which the book abounds, and on
which it relies to exhibit the clergy of Canada and Illinois in a
For instance, to specify some of the more salient points of this kind,
we may on this ground reject as
spurious the letters attributed to
Bishop Vandevelde on pp. 345 (see above, the alleged letter inviting
Chiniquy to Illinois) and 384 together with the
answers to certain questions alleged to have been given by Bishop
O'Regan (p. 440); and likewise, the various conversations he is said to
have had with M. Beaubien (p. 27), M. Leprohon (pp. 66, 109), M. Perras
(p. 136), Bishop Prince (p. 334), M. Primeau (p. 341), Bishop Bourget
(pp. 358, 365, 370), Bishop Vandevelde (p 377), Bishop O'Regan (pp.
391, 394, 426, 429, 437), Archbishop Kenrick (p. 434), and Bishop Smith
(pp. 544, 549).
Similarly we may reject as fictitious
the most unlikely account of his
various dealings with Abraham (afterwards President) Lincoln, in
chapters lix to lxi. Particularly on this ground we may reject the
cock-and-bull story of the Catholic origin of the plot to murder
President Lincoln, fortified as it is by a palpably bogus
made at Chiniquy's request and for the purpose of his book in 1881 (p.
A simple reference to the contemporary reports of the two trials of the
alleged conspirators, or to the standard Life of Lincoln by Nicolay and
Hay - which, whilst exhaustive in its account of the assassination and
of the two trials of the accused, does not throw out the smallest
suggestion of a religious origin of the crime - is sufficient to
dispel the unsupported allegation of a man convicted of the dishonest
practices we have been able to bring home to Chiniquy. Nor does he
better his case by invoking General Harris, the Methodist General, who
was one of the judges in the military trial of the conspirators. For in
the first place, though General Harris, in his History of the Great
Conspiracy Trial (1892), censures one or two priests for
the innocence of the Surratts, a great deal of what Chiniquy quotes
from him in his Forty Years in the
Church of Christ (p. 206) appears to
be interpolated into his account. And in the second place, General
Harris says distinctly (Great
Conspiracy Trial, p. 250), that "the only
reference to the Catholic Church had been made in the public press
[and] the prosecution had carefully abstained from any assault on that
Church." Besides, in 1901 General Harris wrote an approving
Introduction to Mr. Osborne
Oldroyd's Assassination of President
Lincoln, in the Preface to which the latter repudiates the idea
"the Roman Catholic Church ever sanctioned that heinous crime."
We may, too, on the same ground of Chiniquy's proved untrustworthiness
reject all that is to his purpose in what he has to say about the Spink
trial in chapters lvi and lviii. Some friends have been kind enough to
refer for us to the authentic report of this case in the hearing at
Urbana, on October 20, 1856. But it seems that only the barest entries
were made in those days, and the sole record of this particular hearing
is "Spink plaintiff, Chiniquy
defendant, cause slander."
Apparently Spink sued Chiniquy for one of the slanderous statements he
was wont to set afloat against any one who offended him, and Spink in
vindicating himself contended, that Chiniquy himself had been guilty of
the offence he had imputed to another. But, as M. Lebel's sister, the
person who seems to have declared that Chiniquy had misbehaved with
her, declined at the last moment to go into the witness box — the sort
of thing that constantly happens in such cases — Spink's suit suffered.
Anyhow two things about Chiniquy's account of the case are suspicious —
one that he so mixes the items in his narrative that no one could
gather that the charge against him in this instance was one of libel;
the other that the affidavit of Philomena Moffat, made in in 1881 (p.
462), sounds untruthful, even if it be not altogether spurious. It
professes to testify to an overheard conversation, always a doubtful
kind of testimony, and whereas at its commencement it states that two
persons overheard the conversation, at the end it states that there
were three, a contradiction most unlikely in a genuine affidavit.
Besides it is hard to conceive how what is supposed to have happened in
bringing Philomena Moffat from Chicago to Urbana, a distance of some
125 miles, could have taken place within the short space of ten hours
at most. The railway from Chicago to Urbana had only been opened two
years previously. Whether by 1856 it had been so fully equipped with
express trains, and whether, again, at that date there were regular
evening papers at Chicago, both of which the story implies, we have not
been able to ascertain.
We might stop here, but for completeness' sake will give briefly the
closing scene of Chiniquy's Catholic life.
Curiously, at the very time when according to his book he was so much
exercised by M. Brassard's condemnation of his schism, he was
meditating another attempt to get reconciled (on his own conditions?).
On May 12, 1857 (Doc. E) M.
Campeaux, writing to Bishop Bourget from
Bourbonnais, reported that "Chiniquy is showing signs of giving in,"
and two days previously (ibid. Doc. E)
Chiniquy himself had written to the
same bishop to say he was inviting Bishop Pinsonneault, of Sandwich,
Ontario, and M. Brassard to be his intermediaries with Bishop O'Regan
for this purpose. Bishop Bourget wrote him back a kind letter of
encouragement (Doc. E) but we
hear nothing more of the project at this
The next episode in the history brings us to the spring of the
following year, 1858. During the interval Bishop O'Regan went to Rome,
probably on his official visit ad limina. As the visit terminated in
his translation to the titular see of Dora, it was in accordance with
Chiniquy's style that he should claim to have obtained his deposition
by representations made to the Holy See and to the Emperor Napoleon (p.
540); but Mr. Gilmary Shea's account
(see above,) sounds more
probable. His successor at Chicago was Bishop Duggan, who,
not get his Bulls till January 21, 1859, though he was named
administrator in the summer of 1859. Bishop Smith, of Dubuque, was
appointed administrator of the see of Chicago during the interval.
Hence it was with Bishop Smith that Chiniquy had to deal in 1858.
According to Fifty Years, Mr.
Dunn -- formerly Grand Vicar of Chicago
-- who apparently was of Chiniquy's party, arrived at St. Anne's on
March 11, 1858, with the news of Bishop Smith's appointment. He is
represented as having been sent by the bishop to invite Chiniquy to
send in his submission, and the bishop is made to say a good deal to
the discredit of Bishop O'Regan which
probably he did not say. Indeed,
it looks as if the initiative was taken by Chiniquy, with the object of
rushing the administrator, who could as yet have had insufficient time
to sift his case.
Anyhow, Chiniquy went with Mr. Dunn to Dubuque on March 25th, and
signed an act of retraction,
which the bishop seems to have accepted,
and on the basis of which he authorized Mr. Dunn to go back with
Chiniquy to St. Anne's and announce the reconciliation of congregation
and pastor on Palm Sunday, which that year fell on March 28th. We may
presume that this did happen, though we do not feel certain, having
only Chiniquy's testimony to go by. Nor for the same reason can we feel
certain that his act of submission was worded as he gives it in his
book, namely, "We promise to obey the authority of the Church according
to the commandments of God as we find them expressed in the Gospel of
Christ." Such a form may be innocent, in itself, but is evidently
intended to lend to quibbling, by enabling the person signing it to
say, whenever he wished to disobey, that he did not find that
particular order in Scripture; nor is it likely that Bishop Smith would
have accepted so equivocal a document. Moreover, now that we know how
little trust can be reposed in Chiniquy's assertions, we may doubt
whether there was any tendency to Protestantism him until the day, not
then arrived, when he found it convenient to exploit Protestant
credulity for reasons of bread and butter.
What is certain is that on March 27, 1858, he wrote (Doc. A) to M.
Mailloux, then at Bourbonnais, as follows:
"I am happy to inform you
that I have made my peace with our good Bishop Smith, administrator of
the diocese. The Reverend Mr. Dunn will be with me at noon, at your
residence, to dine with you, and deliver into your hands my act of
submission. Meanwhile, help me to thank God for having put an end to
these deplorable divisions. And believe me your devoted servant,
Charles Chiniquy, Missionary of St. Anne's."
This looks as if the Bishop of Dubuque was not altogether satisfied
with the act of submission, and had it submitted to M. Mailloux that he
might report on it. M. Mailloux wrote back (Doc. A) to the bishop on
the following day (March 28) in terms which show that he thought the
bishop was in danger of being taken in by Chiniquy through imperfect
knowledge of his previous career. Hence he gives the substance of his
bad record from his Canadian days onward, as may be seen from the two
salient passages that have been already quoted from this letter (see
above [where Document A has
been quoted] ).
The next we hear of Chiniquy was from St. Joseph, Indiana, where he
went to make the retreat which is sure to have been one of the
stipulated conditions of reconciliation. From his Fifty Years we see
that he realized that M. Mailloux was doubtful about the sincerity of
his depositions, and was warning the bishop to be careful; and Mgr.
Têtu in his Notes (Doc. A)
has preserved for us another letter written to
M. Mailloux by Chiniquy from this place of retreat.
"In April, 1858," he says, "Chiniquy
wrote to M. Mailloux that he was
making a retreat and sued for peace. 'You know,' he said, 'how weak and
sinful I am. Ah! do not make me still weaker and more sinful by driving
me to despair.'"
Another illustration of the different language which
the unfortunate man held in private from that which he ascribes to
himself in his book!
This letter of "April" must have been written at the beginning of
April. At least it must have been if Chiniquy is telling the truth when
he says that he was recalled from his retreat on April 6th, and went
back at once to see the bishop at Dubuque. In his account of this
interview he tells us that the bishop took back the previously accepted
act of submission, and demanded
another expressed in more absolute
terms. This, he tells us, he refused to give, and hence was told
"could no longer be a Roman Catholic priest" (p. 551).
Then he went to his hotel, where, according to his own tragic account,
after spending some time in an agony of distress over his abandoned
position, just in the nick of time -- when,
having made himself
impossible to every Catholic bishop, he must needs seek elsewhere for
some means of living -- the light from Heaven dawned upon him,
saw clearly that the Church of Rome was false and that salvation was
with the Protestants. Then he went back to his flock at St. Anne's, and
on Sunday, April 11th, told them of the treatment he had experienced
from the bishop, and of the subsequent light from on high which had
come to deliver him. To his delight he found that his whole
congregation was prepared to secede with him.
It all sounds most beautiful in his pages, but once more there are some
considerations which make us a
little sceptical as to whether it
happened, at all events at this time. For according to M. Brassard's
letter of July 6th (see above and Doc. E), M. Camille Paré
came to him on
May 4th -- that is, three weeks later than this supposed conversion of
Chiniquy to Protestantism -- and brought a message from Chiniquy asking
for an affidavit, "which he regarded as likely to facilitate his
entrance into the good graces of the bishop."
Moreover, as late as June 23rd this Camille Paré, still acting
on behalf of Chiniquy, was using this very affidavit to palm off the
spurious letter on M. Mailloux. Indeed, M. Brassard's letters to Mgr.
Bourget may be cited as proving that as late as July 10th no news of
Chiniquy's final separation from the Church and conversion to
Protestantism had reached the writer, who evidently thinks that he is
still keeping up his pretence that his faculties as a Catholic pastor
are intact through not having been withdrawn by any valid
excommunication. It would appear, then, that Mgr. Têtu's Notes
(Doc. A) are nearer the truth when they tell us:
"The unfortunate man was not converted.
On August 3, 1858, Bishop
Duggan, of Chicago, excommunicated him publicly and in the presence of
an enormous crowd. Such was the end of an ignoble comedy: Chiniquy
after that could no longer call himself a Catholic. He would have liked
to continue to retain the name in order to glut his passions and to
command in the Church. It was not he who left the Church; it was the
Church who rejected him from her bosom. It was then that he declared
himself a Protestant and endeavoured to maintain in heresy and schism
all the souls he had perverted. The Canadian missionaries soon set at
naught his wiles and deceit. Nearly all the families that had gone
astray returned to the fold."
When thus cut off from the Catholic Church his first idea seems to have
been to keep his followers together as an independent religious body
under the name of "Catholic Christians." But, in striking agreement
with his letter of August 9, 1856, and in equally striking
contradiction with his published glorifications of the fertility of his
settlement (see above), they found before many months were passed that
they were in the midst of a
This appears from a letter he wrote on September 28, 1859, to Dr.
Hellmuth, at that time Protestant Dean of Quebec (see Father Chiniquy's
Reformation in the Far West,
reprinted from the Record, B.
press-mark, 4183 aa. 12). The letter is a cry of distress in face of
the "awful calamity" which is "rapidly destroying the noble band of new
converts," who "cannot last out much longer."
"Before next spring the Church of Rome
will exult over our ruins. We
will succumb, not because our new brothers and sisters have no charity,
but because there is a want of unity in their charity. You are the only
one in Canada who takes any interest in this glorious religious
movement. Last year some had shown us some goodwill, they had extended
to us a helping hand, but now we do not hear a word from them."
Probably it was for this reason that they quickly discovered that
"unless we joined one of the Christian denominations of the day we were
in danger of forming a new sect" (p. 571), and so were formally
received into the Presbyterian Church of the United States by the
Presbytery of Chicago on April 15, 1860 (p. 571).
But how long did he remain with these people? M. Mailloux (Document B)
tells us that "not having been able to retain the place which
Presbyterian ministers of the United States had given him among them,
because they turned him out of their society, as we shall see later"
(namely, in the later part of his manuscript, which is unfortunately
lost), "the unfortunate M. Chiniquy had to come and unite himself with
those whom he had confounded on January 7, 1851" -- that is, with M.
Roussy (see above), and the
Presbytery of Montreal.
Why was he thus
In the days of his lecturing campaign he was often challenged to deny,
if possible, that in 1862, after a visit to Europe, during which he had
made collections for a supposed seminary in Chicago, he was accused of
fraud, and rejected or expelled by the Chicago Synod. He never
to take up this challenge, but a passage in his Fifty Years (p. 472)
is interesting in this connection. In it he narrates that "through the
dishonest and false reports of those two men the money I had collected
[for the said seminary] . . . was retained nearly two years, and lost
the failure of the New York Bank; [and] the only way we found to save
ourselves from ruin was to throw ourselves into the hands of our
Christian brothers of Canada" -- of Canada, be it noticed, not of
Chicago -- (by whom) "our integrity and innocence were publicly
acknowledged, and we were solemnly and officially received into the
Presbyterian Church of Canada on the 11th of June, 1863."
It is easy here to read between the lines that a charge of dishonesty
had been brought against him, one of the same kind as eight years
previously had been brought against him in connection with the burning
of the Bourbonnais church. It was his misfortune to be continually
having charges of the same kind brought against him from different and
independent quarters. However, on January 10, 1864, he gave what his
new friends doubtless regarded as a signal proof of the soundness of
his Protestantism, for on that day he
married his housekeeper.
Still, how did they find him in the matter of personal character? His
egotism and violence are conspicuous in all that he spoke or wrote
against his former co-religionists; were they entirely absent from his
relations with his new friends?
We are never likely to be told, but we cannot read without musing such
cryptic allusions as the following in the sermons preached at the time
of his decease:
"We saw thy faults when thou were with
us, but now we
see thy virtues," said the Rev. A. J. Mowatt on the Sunday after his
funeral (Forty Years in the Church of
Christ, p. 497).
What faults, we
"He had failings, yes, and who is without these? Those with which he
could in a special manner be reproached must be charged to the
inadequate and positively harmful clerical education he had received,
and which in after years he so vigorously combated," said the Rev. C.
E. Amaron, preaching at the graveside on January 19, 1899 (Forty Years, p.
"On leaving home for more advanced and literary and theological
studies, he entered upon a course of training much of which he
afterwards deplored. Possibly some of his best friends were right in
thinking that they saw occasionally traces of this bad education in his
after-life," says his son-in-law in the Preface to this same book. What
were these special faults, one wonders?
Of course we are aware that bigots of this type, when they pick up
eagerly, but to their cost, the weeds which the Pope has thrown over
his wall, find it convenient to ascribe their noxious properties to the
defects of the Pope's soil. We are aware, too, what are the particular
noxious properties which Chiniquy in his writings finds it convenient
to debit to the Pope's soil. Was it to matters of this sort that the
preachers and the Preface-writer were thus dimly alluding?
In this connection we may say that the Catholic Truth Society cannot
undertake a refutation of Chiniquy's book entitled The Priest, the
Woman, and the Confessional.
To write or to circulate such a work, which cannot fail to pollute the
minds of its readers, is an outrage
upon decency, and it would be
impossible to deal with it in a pamphlet intended for general
circulation. The reader will accept
our assurance that in it Chiniquy
has employed the same methods of misrepresentation and misstatement
which have been exposed in the foregoing pages.
* * * * *